Rex: Bank shots

Monday, July 20, 2009 at 2:09am

Bank shots

Last week Rex watched with interest as all of the candidates for governor in 2010 officially filed their financial disclosures and showed how much money they had raised in their respective bids to succeed Phil Bredesen.

As expected, the Republicans came out with more money. Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, and Congressman Zach Wamp are well over the million dollar mark. Shelby County District Attorney Bill Gibbons is bringing up the back end of this convoy with just over $400,000.

Obviously this means that Gibbons has the most difficult road ahead and needs to put the hammer down if he wants to keep up with his GOP rivals.

The situation on the Democratic side is a bit muddier as their donations are more even and have asterisks by them.

State Sen. Roy Herron and Jackson businessman Mike McWherter each pulled in $650,000. However, Herron transferred a few hundred thousand from a state Senate campaign account and McWherter got a big early push from his daddy’s phone calls for cash. His father is none other than the immensely popular former Gov. Ned McWherter.

Former State Rep. Kim McMillan showed $300,000 raised and $175,000 cash on hand. Not bad, but not good for the person who has actually been in the race the longest.

Finally, there was Nashville businessman Ward Cammack. He cashed in with $200,000 in donations that could likely have been garnered by picking up tips at the Belle Meade Country Club. As a political neophyte, it’s not a bad showing but at this point for him to become relevant for the long haul he needs to start looking at his own checkbook for support.

Fuel to the fire

While perusing all of the gubernatorial angles on the Internet, Rex noticed that there will be a couple of new places in the state to show your support for the Haslam campaign.

Last week, the big company owned by Haslam’s father got a whole lot bigger. The Haslams own Knoxville-based Pilot Travel Centers LLC, the nation’s largest privately owned truck stop center — as well as the nation’s largest seller of diesel fuel. They have 300 properties in 41 states and their biggest competitor was another privately owned truck stop center based in Utah, Flying J Inc.

Key word there is “was.” Last week, the Flying J people reached a preliminary deal to sell its chain of travel plazas to Pilot Travel Centers LLC for a combination of cash and stock, allowing the company to exit bankruptcy.

Flying J will receive a stake in Pilot plus enough cash to pay off their creditors According to the Wall Street Journal the equity portion of the deal will be based on an enterprise value for Pilot of $3.3 billion and for Flying J, $1.2 billion.

Rex doesn’t know much about the world of high finance, but he is pretty sure that Haslams are set for life.

Kool-Aid test with a hint of diesel

With the unexpected departure of Democratic State Rep. Curt Cobb from the state legislature, both political parties are scrambling to elect one of their own to the seat vacated by Cobb’s taking a county clerk job.

The Aug. 27 special election will be closely watched given that Democrats don’t want to be another seat down going into 2010, currently the GOP has a one-seat majority. What Rex finds interesting is how the GOP will respond to one of its own candidates — trucking company owner Pat Marsh.

On the plus side, Marsh has the resources to finance his own campaign, the negative for many hardcore Repubs is that he doesn’t seem to drink their brand of Kool-Aid.

According to voting records, Marsh has voted in every Democratic presidential primary since 1996. While he has written campaign checks to Republicans like Bob Corker, Van Hilleary and Ed Bryant, he has also sent money to Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper.

Rex likes to see politicians vote whatever way they want to, but people like Memphis Republican State Rep. Brian Kelsey… not so much.

Remember it was Kelsey who had it in for then GOP State Rep. Kent Williams last election cycle because he wasn’t his brand of Republican. Kelsey went as far as traveling the length of the state to help try to beat him in the primary.

That kind of ticked Williams off and he didn’t much care for the litmus test. Now, Williams is Speaker of the House and Kelsey is widely considered to be one of the oddest ducks in the House.

Note to GOP operatives, somebody might want to muzzle Kelsey if Marsh is your GOP candidate.

Ill timed

Last week, as the long-awaited Marcia Trimble trial was about to get underway and a heavy sense of uneasiness hung over the courtroom, it happened.

Lead prosecutor Tom Thurman was only seconds into his opening argument before the jury when a spectator's mobile phone sounded off with the University of Oklahoma's fight song as its ringtone.

Talk about an “ice breaker.” The offending party fled the courtroom in a hurry, and a chuckling Thurman resumed his address.


Rex Noseworthy appears Mondays in The City Paper.